Half my fascination with Lil B comes from the words music critics have been using to describe him: an “insanely prolific (and just plain insane)” (Tom Breihan) “savant” with an “ADD report card” (John Twells) whom many have poised to be the “leader of the new hip hop underground.”
Others, including himself, claim he is the devil.
The controversial Brandon “Lil B” McCartney was once a member of The Pack –a California based group who had a big hit with the minimalistic track “Vans”–which he left in order to heavily pursue a solo career aimed to “impose the positive” in rap. In the tune of Ayn Randian ethics, Lil B believes the positive can be achieved through rap by helping listeners find the courage to pursue their own individuality.
“Society says you’re supposed to do this, and you’re supposed to do it this way” while “looking like this,” says Lil B. “We’re a new generation of people. We need to be happy. We need to love each other. We need to accept each other for who we are and stop judging each other.”
Just as The Beatles piped nearly 40 years ago –albeit to a slightly more peppy riff– Lil B thinks we all just need to come together. Yet it’s 2010 and the world remains divided; some might say it is even more so. So what to do when flowers and peace signs just aren’t working?
Its perhaps telling of our time that it is not Lil B’s optimism that’s got everyone talking and clicking furiously on his many self-posted youtube videos. Rather it’s the way he channels these ideas that’s got everyone talking; his way of provoking listeners and inciting touchy slurs in a way that is almost guaranteed to get you a little fired up. By directly challenging, and even better offending, his audience’s beliefs and opinions, B hopes to serve as a hub of self acceptance (and promotion) for pretty much every marginalized racial, religious, and sexual group. But how?
I would suggest this is precisely where his self-chosen nickname “demigod” comes in. Lil B takes the onus upon himself (rather than just suggesting listeners show a little more pride- who listens to gentle prods anyway?) and offers himself up as a re-casting role model, calling himself a lesbian, pretty bitch, faggot and queen among countless other politically unstable identities. Oh, he’s Satan occasionally, too (“Welcome to hell”).
By taking on multiple identities, Lil B tries to make his listeners think twice about what and who rap star is, and even more importantly, encourages us to think about why it is we might harbor those pre-conceived assumptions.
I call it the deconstruction of the rap star.
This is a pretty ambitious master plan, which is perhaps why Breihan calls him flat out insane, but the experimentation doesn’t end here. What makes B’s music so interesting is not just his provocative lyrics; it’s the way he chooses to package them. He often speaks slowly and unmetered in an abstract spoken-word style, sometimes over a break but more often over bare and ambient synths. He even has a term for this lyrical and tripped out style of flow: “Based” (a reference to amphetamines).
The Based effect, as can be heard in “Dangerous Minds,” comes across as a post-mortem voice of the subconscious. It’s pretty eerie.
I would like to suggest that what some have relegated to be Lil B’s theatrics are maybe a necessary evil and do have the potential to instigate some sort of social change; or in the least, bring some of these issues to the table. Or maybe he’s just playing us as we continue to patron what many people have called corrosive and irresponsible behavior (read: entertainment). Either way, it is clear that Lil B remains committed to identifying himself as a socially conscious and thought provoking artist by touring with aim-kins like Das Racist, and will surely continue to grind out anything but subtle music that purposefully throws these often dodged issues in your face.
Because Lil B often releases most of his music directly to the internet, the limited edition 1000-copy vinyl run of his new album Rain in England released by Weird Forest offers a rare opportunity to own a physical piece of his music. The more rap conventional Blue Flame mixtape hit the net last week, available from Dat Piff.